House Of Fun

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Dummy Spits, Local Politics, Politics, The Battle For Western Sydney

I hope nobody reading this post has ever felt the pain of dealing with NSW Housing.

I’ve never had the need for their services and for that I consider myself lucky, however there are many people who rely on NSW Housing for a roof above their head. I speak of men, women and children of all ages, many of them are elderly or living with disabilities, both physical and mental, so to say that many are vulnerable would be an understatement.

I have spoken to those dealing with the problems many of those in the system deal with on a daily basis, and I have heard some awful stories regarding all sorts of things, some of which I will touch on.

If the department had issues before the Liberal Party came to power in NSW then those issues have escalated beyond all proportions under a Liberal government.

The issues with this department go well beyond isolated incidents, there is a cultural issue within this department that needs to be addressed, and unfortunately the current Minister Pru Goward is less than capable.

The always happy Pru Goward

The always happy Pru Goward

The Coalition have always been known for their ability to sell off public assets, even after they have criticised the former Labor government for considering it, look at the NSW electricity network for example. However even I was surprised to hear what is happening with public housing under Pru Goward.

When a tenant vacates public housing and somebody else is given a chance to move in, it is often the case that the premises are left in a condition that is less than pristine, and I’m not referring to strange unidentifiable stains on the carpet either.

Houses are often left with holes in walls, broken tiles, doors that don’t close, broken windows, exposed wiring and all sorts of other issues. I have heard cases of houses with floorboards missing and exposed rusty nails where the boards used to be, and this was considered a safe environment for children to live in.

Go play in the lounge room kids....

Go play in the lounge room kids….

What I was unaware of, is that if there were damages worth over $10,000 then the house is more than likely sold off. These are houses that are often worth $350-$400K, to sell them off because of $10K worth of repairs is a bit like selling your car because it gets a flat tyre.

There is good news however, dirty walls do not count towards the damage. Walls that have blood, piss, and human faeces smeared on them are the incoming tenants problem, as is graffiti. Imagine you are moving into a new place with your 6 year old boy and 8 year old daughter and your first job as a family is trying to clean blood, shit and piss off the walls. Walls are often covered in graffiti, picture your daughter sleeping in a bedroom with graffiti that reads F**k Off C**ts above her head in bold red. New tenants who don’t think these are appropriate conditions are expected to repaint the premises at their own expense.   

The shortage of public housing means that the needy are forced to wait in queues for what the department calls “emergency housing” but usually means something most of us would refer to as a dodgy hotel.

That’s right, the last time you spent the night in a crappy hotel you may have actually spent the night in a housing commission estate without realising it.

Hotels are being used as “emergency accommodation” for needy families all over the state. Families are not enjoying an overnight stay either, families can end up there for weeks or even months. Not only does this breach the fire code of every hotel that is part of this scheme, as hotel rooms are not classed as live-in accommodation only as a temporary dwelling, it must also be an issue with the hotels insurance companies. Many, or in fact most of these hotels offer no laundry and cooking dinner for the family means whatever can be whipped up in a toaster and kettle, great for the manufacturers of 2 minute noodles, bad for the health of the kids given the choice of noodles or take-away  for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Emergncy Housing - Almost as big as a jail cell, almost as expensive as the Hilton

Emergncy Housing – Almost as big as a jail cell, almost as expensive as the Hilton

Emergency accommodation can see a family housed in a cheap hotel in Newcastle while the kids are supposed to be attending school in Sydney. Next thing you know they are reported to DOCS because the kids aren’t getting to school. Parents are forced into this accommodation by being told if they don’t accept it then they will receive no further assistance from Housing NSW.

If you think this is bad and it is, it gets worse. The hotels jack up their rates so that the govt pays top dollar, so much for the Coalition “Ending The Waste”, they are paying more than you and I would if we were to stay there. However as if it is not bad enough that the taxpayer is paying extra, so are the needy families, many of these families are forced to pay the inflated hotel rate every 3rd night, much of it being deducted straight from their pensions.

Not only that, those forced into “emergency accommodation” are often made to sign a 3 month lease with NSW Housing for the pleasure of staying in a dodgy hotel. When was the last time you had to sign a lease agreement when you stayed in a hotel? I’m betting never.

Another issue faced by those in the system is where about they are placed for housing. There seems to be little regard for who will end up neighbours. I know that beggars can’t be choosers but I don’t think it would hurt for things to be a little better organised. It needs to be remembered that while these people pay a reduced rent, they still actually pay rent, they have the same rights as any other tenant.

For example it is common for elderly people to be housed in with those who have recently come out of jail or have issues with mental health. Families with young children sharing a block of units with junkies and paedophiles that have just been released is less than ideal, surely we can do better. One horror story that I was told of involved an elderly lady with Alzheimer’s who didn’t remember that she was being raped on an almost nightly basis by her neighbour. It was only after her family became aware and raised the alarm that something was done. With cases such as this which are scarily common, you could be forgiven for thinking we were living in war-torn Syria, not “The Lucky Country”.

I do not understand why people cannot be placed with greater care, or is this department so out of control that it is beyond help?

If ever there was a department that needed a broom putting through it then the Housing NSW is it. Unfortunately in Pru Goward we have a Minister that seems to deem it below her to do any sort of sweeping in case she raises a sweat. Much of what I have seen has been brought to the attention of the Minister who chooses to rely on the word of beaurocrats that are often the cause of the problem.

Pru "Why would I listen to the little people?" Goward

Pru “Why would I listen to the little people?” Goward

Many of those in positions of power in this department should not just be shown the door, they should be charged with criminal neglect. There is a culture of apathy, laziness, and covering each others backs throughout this department that is not just sickening but plain dangerous. Those tenants who complain or raise concerns for their own safety are branded trouble-makers and treated with scorn and derision, often threatening in nature.

This is a culture that needs to change, and needs to change fast. We are supposed to be a society that protects the weak, and treats people with dignity.

Where did it all go wrong?

You can expect more articles on this in the near future.

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Comments
  1. Joy Cooper says:

    Great article, Wixxy. It should be front page on mainstream newspapers except it wouldn’t suit their Narrative. Pru Goward is definitely the wrong person in the wrong job. She shows absolutely no compassion, at all, to anyone who is not “one of them” but has plenty of the mean-spiritedness now common with the LNP.

    When you think about it she is really just a slumlord as are the bureaucrats in her department. This is a disgrace.

    We live in the Northern Rivers of NSW & haven’t a hope in hell of ever being allocated public housing so have given up even trying. It must be dreadful for young families trying to get a roof over their heads. Disgusting.

  2. sulphurcrested says:

    Good on you Wixxy for exposing the neglect of their responsibilities and waste of public monies by the DoH and their maltreatment of those unfortunate enough to need their assistance.
    The examples you mention are appalling. To think that those in charge of this are being paid large salaries to oversee such disgraceful conditions and situations. It is criminal, fraudulent and heartless.

  3. Brenda orr says:

    This discussing all though I have heard this before I agree the department dose need a shak up and it needs social workers to go and make sure these places are fit for living and weather the people are suited two live on their own and not to become a nuisance to other residents they should have cleaners painters and carpenters to clean these places up and make sure it is fit for living before the tenants get the keys their is no compassion out their any more and this person who is responsible for looking after these units or house needs a swift kick up the you no were and told to get her act together or she is out of a job common on we don’t live in a third world country this is Australia were people are looked after some one better do something about how this department is fun

  4. Schoolwastetech says:

    Heard Pru on ABC 702 Sydney on Linda Mottram’s show today, defending the 20% plus increase in public housing rents. Apparently when pensioners received their recent energy adjustment subsidy of approx $11.00 this was judged to be income by Pru’s department, even though the Federal Government said via Centrelink that it could not be accessed as income. Pru prattled on about Carbon Tax being the root cause of all of the increases – can this be referred to the ACCC?

  5. Mon says:

    That picture of the emergency accom you have there looks like a palace compared to what my kids and I stayed in, in Victoria. We shared a 1960’s room with one bed and two mattresses on the floor, with one old portable hotplate to cook on. The hotel was full of families like us, junkies and hookers (that worked out of their rooms). We lived in that room for 2 months. Check out the reviews of this hotel, City Gate, St Kilda. Ohh and just to qualify, I was working two jobs and had to move because I was out priced in my private rental, over 5 years my rent increased from $260 to $400 pw. I had applied for over 50 rentals before we ended up in that horrible place. We lived in total for 7 months in that hotel, 1st in that one room, then in a one bedroom (my 5 and 15 year old shared a bed, I slept in the lounge) for 4 months, Then in a two bed for 1 month.
    20 months later we are in Temp Accom STILL (not emergency) its nice but its not home, I have lost my jobs because of the drama and the hoops that I have had to jump through for the department.

  6. Thanks for your excellent & insightful article.

    I’ve lived in a public housing flat in what was once known as the “good end of Redfern” (the eastern side) since 2003 and the department appears to have been shut down for the past couple of years. Not one iota of maintenance has been carried out on our crumbling & vermin infested block since O’Farrell got elected. Our rent keeps going up, but our landlord seems to be delinquent.

    Once I was proud to show my friends from my old haunt of the Northern Beaches that Redfern was nowhere as bad as the media made it out to be. But now I do not let my friends come over as I am too ashamed of where I live. Cooper St in Redfern between Morehead & Young Streets is infested with so many rats that people often stop by during the daytime just to watch the now-common sight of sometimes a dozen or more rats enjoying themselves on the lawn alongside the footpath. The rats are so used to people that you actually have to stop walking & wait while a family of rats crosses the concrete section of the path on the way back to their nests. One walked across my feet a fortnight ago.

    I know of 2 premises I can see from my window that have, for several years, had strangers coming and going at all hours of the day and night – most likely drug dealing. Housing won’t do anything about the fact that we residents have to dodge druggies & needles on out internal stairwell to get to or from our flats. Though I must admit that they have promised to fix our broken security door since 2003, so I can’t blame the LNP entirely for that mess. Early this morning a woman who is not a tenant overdosed on heroin, ice & speed (according to what her non-resident friend told the ambulance officers). She often attends the flat where people constantly come & go, but Housing NSW can’t be bothered doing anything about it.

    It has become the law of the jungle here in Redfern, and the change for the worse definitely started after greedy rent-collector O’Farrell won office. I even wrote a blog post about the overdose while the ambulance was trying to rouse the woman from her stupor: Tales From The Redfern Ghetto: An open letter to Housing NSW – strange junkies in the night (& our stairwell) – http://tftrg.blogspot.com.au/2013/04/an-open-letter-to-housing-nsw-strange.html

    I will be writing more on my blog about the rats, the lack of building security (I fear a psychotic relative who once tried to kill me may one day discover where I live), and the tenant with 5 constantly barking dogs who appears to use his public housing flat as a kennel while he lives elsewhere. All of these long-standing issues are well known by Housing NSW, and all completely ignored by Housing NSW.

    • wixxy says:

      Thanks Scott, I’d reblog your letter but WordPress doesn’t like your blog host….

      I will post it up on my Facebook page though, thanks for sharing your story

  7. jane says:

    Another great post, wixxy. I shudder to think what things will be like if Liealot gets the reins of power. He’ll make even Newman’s sham of a government look competent.

    Keep up the pressure exposing the incompetence and uncaring nature of Liars governments.

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